Relationship Quality in Services: Past, Present, and Future

Relationship Quality in Services: Past, Present, and Future

Pinelopi Athanasopoulou (University of Peloponnese, Greece)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2524-2.ch009
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Abstract

In today’s highly competitive environment, the development of successful relationships with customers is considered a significant competitive advantage. Thus, the maintenance and enhancement of Relationship Quality (RQ) becomes critical for service providers. This chapter aims to analyse the concept of RQ and its antecedents and consequences in the area of services, account for its development and evolution through the last 2 decades, identify the developmental trends in the literature, and offer directions for future research. The field has become more specialised with age and the only area of convergence is the use of trust, satisfaction, and commitment as dimensions of RQ. However, lately RQ is conceptualised as a single dimension concept based on buyer’s perception. Researchers use antecedents that are buyer-related, seller-related, or relationship-related, and the most important consequence investigated is customer loyalty. Lately, RQ research emphasises the importance of the environment effect (technology, economy, culture, etc.), is focusing on multi-industry or multi-country studies, and investigates the relationship of RQ with other major concepts such as service quality.
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Introduction

Relationship Quality (RQ) is a concept that is based on the long-standing premise in marketing literature that losing customers is costly. Research has concluded that it is five times more expensive to acquire new customers than to keep existing ones. Therefore, companies have strived to develop long-term relationships with their customers in order to create customer loyalty and increase profitability. In fact, a strong relationship is considered to be an intangible asset that cannot be easily duplicated by competitors (Wong, et al., 2007). Several scholars and managers suggest that in contexts where good relationships matter, Relationship Quality (RQ) is replacing service quality and customer satisfaction as a key source of superior performance (Palmatier, et al., 2006; Rauyruen & Miller, 2007). Finally, the latest paradigm shift in Marketing is towards relationships and the ultimate goal of firms is to satisfy customer needs through the development of such relationships.

As a result, RQ has become a very important concept in marketing research. When such quality is high, the relationship is successful and vice versa. Researchers have repeatedly tried to define RQ; to determine its inherent dimensions, and to identify its antecedents and consequences in various contexts (e.g. Crosby, et al., 1990; Roberts, et al., 2003; Huntley, 2006). The study of RQ in the context of services begins with Crosby et al. (1990). This is the first effort to conceptualise RQ in this context. From then onwards, the first decade of research involves further efforts to determine what RQ is and which are its antecedents and consequences in many different service industries. However, the real research focus on services is observed from 2007 until today. In those 5 years, a significant number of papers has been published on the subject in a wide variety of journals. This chapter aims to analyse the concept of RQ and its antecedents and consequences in the area of services; account for its development and evolution through the last 2 decades; show the developmental trends in the literature, and suggest avenues for future research.

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